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PAUL KRUGMAN. Big business reaps Trump’s whirlwind (New York Times)

The bill for decades of cynical politics is coming due. Continue reading

Posted in Economy | Leave a comment

DUNCAN GRAHAM New name, old menu, but hope looms

Fresh news for stay-at-homes: The ABC has abandoned spin to reveal its overseas TV service is not aired to showcase the nation, but amuse expats. Continue reading

Posted in Media | 3 Comments

GEORGE BROWNING. Domestic Violence

Last week we were confronted with domestic violence in the most tragic of circumstances as a NSW father became the brutal killer of his two teenage children. Most Australians will have found this news inexplicable. How could a father submerge natural feelings of paternal care and responsibility in an ocean of anger and bitterness to enable such a terrible act?  If the chief role of Government is to ‘keep its citizens safe’, as politicians from the Prime Minister down constantly remind us to justify the enormous spending on national defence; is enough being done to combat what is a far greater threat to citizen safety? Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights | 1 Comment

JOHN TULLOH. Sorry, Rupert, the ABC is more trusted than you are.

As keen as the local Murdoch media are in reporting opinion polls, a recent survey* probably was not one of them. It declared that their avowed nemesis remained by far the most trusted media organisation in Australia. That is the ABC or, as Rupert Murdoch famously muttered in 2002, ‘Fucking ABC’.  Continue reading

Posted in Media | 2 Comments

JOHN QUIGGIN. Westward, look, the land is bright (Inside Story)

Amid more bad news from Washington come signs that attitudes are hardening against much of what the Trump presidency stands for. Continue reading

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KATHARINE MURPHY. ‘We’ve turned a corner’: farmers shift on climate change and want a say on energy.

National Farmers’ Federation head Fiona Simson says people on the land can’t ignore what is right before their eyes. Continue reading

Posted in Environment and climate | 3 Comments

RICHARD A. BITZINGER. US, China cash in on Asia’s growing appetite for arms.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has just released its data on the global arms trade for 2017, and it is big news for Asia as a whole, and for China and the United States in particular. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Defence/Security, International Affairs | Leave a comment

JOHN MENADUE. Bugging a Cabinet room, keeping sweet with News Corp and a pointless Australian Federal Police investigation of a leak

Andrew Wilkie MP has asked the AFP to investigate the improper disclosure of ‘protected information’ disclosed by News Corp. journalist Niki Savva on the ABC Insiders program on 1 July 2018. She said that Attorney General Christian Porter had been given ‘a very strong recommendation to prosecute’ Bernard Collaery and Witness K.

How Savva knew this and who told her is the subject of an AFP investigation requested by Andrew Wilkie. On the basis of previous AFP form this will go nowhere.  Continue reading

Posted in Defence/Security, Politics | 2 Comments

ANDREW JAKUBOWICZ. A Rose by Any Other Name: Reflections on the future of race discrimination and vilification in Australia

In a penultimate spate of inter-personal hostility between the current Race Discrimination Commissioner and his opponents in government and the media, the future of a Commissioner (RDC) and the enabling Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) have been flagged by Attorney General Porter as being high on his “to do” list. Continue reading

Posted in Human Rights | 2 Comments

ANDREW FARRAN. South Pacific Islands responding to security concerns

The Pacific Islands Forum will announce a new Biketawa Plus Declaration at its forthcoming Ministerial summit with fresh directions and priorities for members in the face of external pressures on the region, not least from China and Russia. There will be particular attention to security issues in keeping with good governance and the rule of law. The Forum owes much its character and structure to a former Australian diplomat and late Secretary General whose regional experience provided formative insights for its development in the modern era.
The sinews of a viable Pacific Islands cooperative grouping with concerns for regional security, in addition to economic and social development, democratic values and human rights, are beginning to take a firm form. In an overdue development – previously impeded by local conflict and political instability, and it could be said Australia’s benign neglect of the region over several decades – the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum will next September sign a new Declaration, Biketawa Plus, to guide the Forum on its priorities for security cooperation and provide a framework for meeting emerging threats in keeping with good governance and the rule of law.
The Declaration is also expected to cover environmental concerns and climate change resilience (such as protection against rising sea levels).
There has been a long-lead up to this point, beginning with the formation of the South Pacific Commission in 1947, a body whose main task was to coordinate and cover the regional programs and interests of the former colonial powers. Over time the Commission lost something of its standing  and influence as the island states gained independence and sought to shake off those former colonial connections.
Following unsettling periods involving failures of governance in several of the territories- such as the George Speight coup attempt in Fiji in 2000 and the subsequent denial of democratic values in that country; and the racial and ethnic violence in the Solomons leading to the successful peace-keeping intervention by Australia through the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) in 2003 –  the Forum has sought to increase its presence and assert its own political prerogatives – more so than has been seen previously among such inter-governmental groups in the region.
The Declaration in September will be known as Biketawa Plus, after the initial Biketawa Declaration in 2000 prompted by the Fiji coup at that time. An inspirational and formative genius progressing this move at the time was an Australian diplomat, Greg Unwin, who had served for many years in the region having opened Australia’s first diplomatic mission in Apia, later as Australian High Commissioner in Vanuatu and Fiji, and then as Deputy High Commissioner in New Zealand.
At the 2000 Forum summit in Kiribati Mr Unwin played a key role in the drafting of the first Biketawa Declaration which followed a closed-door ‘retreat’ of members on an off-shore island of the same name. This consolidated the political cohesion of the members that has been built on since.
At the initial Kiribati meeting Unwin was nominated for the position of first secretary-general of the Forum but being an Australian met some opposition. However his regional credentials and acknowledged experience, and personal skills, carried the day and when the question of a second term arose, his renewal was confirmed without objection. As Secretary-General he saw the Forum adopt its “Pacific Plan” at the Port Morseby summit in 2005 – a scheme of cooperation based on its “four pillars” of economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security.
[Greg Urwin died in 2008: see Hamish McDonald, “Careful diplomat brokered regional co-operation, SMH, Aug 15, 2008]
The governmental initiatives this year are clearly a response to increasing concerns over Chinese naval and diplomatic activity in the region, including reports of the alleged funding of a naval base in Vanuatu, since denied; and other projects whereby it is being said that expensive Chinese loans with strict repayment terms are being forced on these vulnerable island states – as a consequence of the relative neglect of islander development goals in past decades.
On the military and security front it is to be noted that military exercises known as “Indo-Pacific Endeavour” were held this year and included defence and security training with forces from Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, PNG and the Solomon Islands. The Australian army is also supporting the development of Vanuatu’s mobile forces. A defence co-operation program operating more widely in the Pacific Islands has included the delivery of  new Guardian Class offshore patrol vessels.
In addition to more aid money from the May Budget, the Australian government recently agreed to build a 4,000 km $136 million undersea internet cable connection between the Solomons and Australia to prevent, it is said, the Chinese company Huawei being involved in the project, allegedly for security reasons.
Earlier in its Foreign Policy White Paper the government committed to setting up an Australian Pacific Security College “to deliver security and law enforcement training at the leadership level”.
The Australian newspaper reported on 5th July that a Parliamentary Library briefing paper speculated that these commitments “may reflect a renewed desire on the part of the Australian government to work with Pacific Island countries to ensure values such as the rule of law and transparency are strengthened as new players in the region emerge” – a nod towards China and Russia.
The South Pacific is no longer a backwater for Australia. It is an area of strategic and political importance locally. More particularly, unlike with southeast and east Asia, it is a region where Australia can exercise real influence for good and be taken notice of.  This carries commensurate responsibilities. The Pacific Islands Forum’s Biketava Plus initiative is the most recent example where Australia’s influence for good can be exercised effectively, with one caution: our defence and intelligence cadres should conduct themselves in these regions, when it is appropriate for them to be  there at all, with a light touch. The Pacific Islanders are the stakeholders in this region and must be seen as the drivers of their own destiny – with help from their friends. Australia cannot afford to be seen as acting as if it runs the place, least of all act as the local bully. That could lead to an embarrassing displacement.
Andrew Farran is a former diplomat, law academic and trade policy adviser.
Posted in International Affairs | 2 Comments

KERRY O’BRIEN. Speech to ABC Friends rally – Sydney 8 July 2018

Let me start with a quote: ‘…The ABC is a vital part of our nation’s polity. It is one of the great foundations of journalism and news gathering and broadcasting in the country. It has a very special place in Australia.’ That was Malcolm Turnbull in January 2014 when he announced a cut to the ABC’s budget of $254 million. Continue reading

Posted in Media | 7 Comments

MUNGO MacCALLUM. Tax – something will turn up.

Scott Morrison has inched forward to another interminable episode of tweaking the tax. This time it’s the scales of the returns the states get from the commonwealth’s GST, but, as always, do not hold your breath.   Continue reading

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ROSS GITTINS. Clever tax strategies may be legal, but they aren’t productive (SMH 9/7/2018)

The developed world’s economists have been racking their brains for explanations of the rich countries’ protracted period of weak improvement in the productivity of labour. I’ve thought of one that hasn’t had much attention.   Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | 3 Comments

GRAHAM FREUDENBERG. Trump and Putin – One last word

My unfulfilled ambition was to put a new word into the English vocabulary. May I make a last attempt with an ugly word for an ugly thing? It is ‘neo-victimism’. It defines the dominant element into today’s great power relations.   Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs, Politics | 2 Comments

RANALD MACDONALD. A wonderfully ‘Sydney-style’ rally was held on Sunday to galvanise support for the ABC

It was emotional, noisy, sweaty, energetic and organised chaos, as 1000 public broadcasting enthusiasts scrambled and fought their way into the 400 seat NSW Teachers Federation auditorium in Surry Hills.  

Continue reading

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ABUL RIZVI: Business migration should focus on establishing businesses not passive investment

While Eryk Bagshaw’s article of 8 July 2018 screams Millionaires stream in, the Sun Herald’s editorial of the same day is a bit more sanguine about the benefits and risks of the Business Innovation and Investment Programme that facilitates entry of business migrants and investors. This Programme and its predecessors, while superficially attractive, have a chequered history as recognised by the Productivity Commission in its 2016 Report on the Migrant Intake and Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to initiate a review of the Programme. Continue reading

Posted in Refugees, Immigration | Leave a comment

ANDREW GLIKSON. Abbott’s views on climate change

Since 2015 when the then Prime Minister stated Australia was making a “definite commitment” to a 26% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and possibly as high as 28% reduction”,  now Abbott states he did not foresee as prime minister “how the aspirational targets we agreed to at Paris would, in different hands, become binding commitments”. Continue reading

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JOHN MENADUE. Domestic violence is a greater threat than terrorism .

Last week in Sydney we saw the tragic death of two teenagers as a result of domestic violence. We know that over 12 months on average one woman is killed every week in Australia by a current or former partner.

Yet national effort and resources are directed overwhelmingly to counter terrorism where in the last decade only three people in Australia have been killed.   Continue reading

Posted in Health, Politics | 1 Comment

GREG AUSTIN: Counter-terrorism lessons for family murders

It is time to police family violence perpetrators as rigorously as we police terrorists. We can learn from the country’s successes in counter-terrorism work and perhaps apply some lessons to the family violence challenges. Continue reading

Posted in Health | 1 Comment

MUNGO MacCALLUM. The Libertarians.

I have never personally met Sarah Hanson-Young, and I know absolutely nothing about her sex life.  And the same applies to David Leyonhjelm, in spades. But I do have some acquaintances with Libertarians, and have not always liked what I have seen.   Continue reading

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

ROSS GITTINS. Cash and kind: How governments shift income from rich to poor. (SMH 7/7/2018)

Everyone knows the gap between high and low incomes has grown. But much of what we think we know about why it’s happened, and what the government has been doing about it, is probably wrong.  

Continue reading

Posted in Economy, Politics | 2 Comments

IAN WEBSTER. Government and the medicalisation of disabilities

Each year two thirds of applications for a Disability Support Pension are rejected; a rejection rate which has doubled in 8 years (Christopher Knaus, Guardian, 8 June 2018). Continue reading

Posted in Health | 2 Comments

ANDREW FARRAN. Brexit: All in the National Interest

British PM Theresa May is presently holding the strategic high ground on Brexit after the day-long meeting with her whole Cabinet at Chequers last Friday. To her formerly disputing colleagues she could announce that evening:  “Collective responsibility is now fully restored”. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 1 Comment

TIM WOODRUFF. Health, Class Warfare, and Social Justice

Class warfare has been with us forever. It could be called a fight for social justice. Indeed, it would seem to be integral to the stepwise progress we have made over centuries as we have moved to a society which outlaws overt slavery, has a moderately progressive tax system, provides a wide range of public services, and has a variety of safety nets, all combining in the aim to be a civilised society. Continue reading

Posted in Health | 5 Comments


A regular connection of links to writings and broadcasts covered in other media. Continue reading

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RAMESH THAKUR. Australia and the Quad (The Strategist)

On 18 January, admirals from Australia, India, Japan and the US sat together on stage at the high-profile Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi. Their presence reflected the shared strategic assessment that China has become a disruptive force in the Indo-Pacific. Taking time out to deliver a lecture at India’s National Defence College, Australian Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne echoed remarks by Indian PM Narendra Modi to the Australian Parliament in 2014, affirming that India had shifted from the periphery to the centre of Canberra’s strategic frame. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, International Affairs | Leave a comment

CLIVE KESSLER. “Western Civilization” in our universities: Killed off by its latter-day champions.

Who killed off the “Western Tradition” in our Universities? Its current neo-liberal champions and those who share their crocodile tears. Continue reading

Posted in Education | 2 Comments

MICHAEL KELLY. Change of era in Oz.

In a revealing throwaway line, Pope Francis captured something that is true for the Church across the world but most especially for the Church in Australia. The pope described our time in the church and wider society as “not so much an era of change as a change of era”. Continue reading

Posted in Religion and Faith | 1 Comment

ROSEMARY O’GRADY. Remembering Stars.

Some ninety-odd years ago this week was born in the bush in the rugged far north-west of Western Australia a child given the Christian name of David.   Continue reading

Posted in Indigenous affairs | 3 Comments

Kevin Rudd on Xi Jinping, China and the Global Order (Asia Society Policy Institute 26/6/2018))

(On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd delivered an address to the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore for The Significance of China’s 2018 Central Foreign Policy Work Conference. Below is the transcript of the speech. )

On 22-23 June 2018, the Chinese Communist Party concluded its Central Conference on Work Relating to Foreign Affairs, the second since Xi Jinping became General Secretary of the Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission in November 2012. The last one was held in November 2014. These are not everyday affairs in the party’s deliberations on the great questions of China’s unfolding global engagement. Continue reading

Posted in International Affairs | 2 Comments